Monday, October 14, 2013

Writing Romance is Harder Than it Reads!

Ever read a romance novel and think "I could write this stuff!" Well you can't. Not without years of hard work, training and tears. For those of you who have the know-how, (and I don't mean the personal romance know-how) and the education, this doesn't mean you. I'm talking to the people who poo poo the genre and say it is easy to write a romance. If it were, wouldn't everyone do it?
If a romance author let you think you could do it without a degree in creative writing, or at the very least classes and workshops on novel writing, they are probably one fine writer. Making the story flow, making you feel you are a part of the story and can write like that if you tried, is the sign of a good writer. It might look simple, but it is not.
Thank God I didn't know this before I started my first novel. I said those above fated words while reading a Susan Wiggs romance one summer. It seemed to me that there was nothing to thinking up a compelling story and then just typing it out. No offence to the author but sheesh, just write a handsome man, a woman the reader would care about, a nice setting, story and BINGO! Publication.
I was so confident, I started writing in the fall and had a spring power outfit hanging in my closet for an inevitable meeting with my editor in New York.
In some ways it's wonderful to be so confident. I'd just been on a family vacation in Canada, over the border from Eastern Washington, and decided to set this blockbuster hit on a lake, like the one we'd just been to. And then I started writing. And deleting. And writing. And deleting.
This wasn't my first novel, but it was my first romance. I'd already written a Women's Fiction that had been rejected by some of the finest agents and editors in NYC, so you see, I wasn't totally green. Just unpublished and uneducated about the process of novel writing. Aside from a few workshops on the Hero's Journey, I had no clue. I didn't even read romance but after reading Susan Wiggs' novels, I thought I might start.

Then I read somewhere that the second book doesn't usually sell. It's purpose is solely to babysit the dust bunnies under your bed, The third book was the one that would sell. Regardless, I finished the book, sent out a queries, and got rejected by some of the finest agents and editors, not only in NYC but all over this fine country. It was unanimous. No one wanted it. No one wanted the first thirty pages, let alone the full manuscript. Although I loved the high concept, no one else did. I'd written a story about a modern day Goldilocks and the Three Bears, something that apparently would sink like a lead hard copy, and I was told repeatedly that it was a bad idea. It had either been done to death or couldn't be done, I can't remember which.
That was bad news to me, who had a series all planned out with Red Riding Hood and Jack and the Beanstalk about modern day women who find themselves in similar circumstances to the nursery stories. The completed romance was titled Goldy and the Bayers, about a rock singer who suddenly retires and escapes the media by hiding out at her lake house, only to find herself spying on the family next door - the Bayers.
The completed manuscript collected dust for several years while I continued writing. I'd gotten too far in to quit now. I had thousands invested in Writers' Conferences and posit notes and felt I owed it to myself to prove that writing a book and getting it published was super simple! Dammit!
When I saw a call for Fairytale stories by Entangled Publishing, I ventured under the bed to get Goldy, and sent the pitch to several other publishers while I was at it.
Then I got a shovel, a pick ax, and a big garbage bag and started editing and cleaning up the first three chapters. When several publishers asked for the full, I smirked and told myself to dig out that Power Suit for NYC. Turned out I hadn't exactly written a romance. No siree. According to several agents who almost considered representing me at this point in my almost career, the story wasn't formulaic enough. Apparently there is a definite formula to follow for romance and I hadn't done that. In the first few pages my hero did not catch the protagonist when she fell off a ladder in her Daisy Dukes, his hand getting tangled in the jean rips, until they broke apart, embarrassed. I wasn't sure what the formula was, but when one of the queried editors suggested some easy changes to make it fit the formula, I gladly said yes and signed on the dotted line. Thank you Ally Robertson!
Writing romance is not easy. And it isn't just me who's had a hard time at this. Most writers will tell you that if you think it's easy, the joke is on you. Writing a romance (and a believable sex scene, while we're talking about it) takes a ton of skill and talent. It is not the walk in the park it looks to be and next time you read a novel that's as smooth as a piece of crustless cheesecake, think about the craft that goes into writing your entertainment.
How about it writers? Anyone ever heard that romance writing is easy?

Kim Hornsby is the author of Amazon Bestseller, Necessary Detour with The Wild Rose Press, originally named Goldy and the Bayers.

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